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Documenting Kotlin Code

The language used to document Kotlin code (the equivalent of Java's JavaDoc) is called KDoc. In its essence, KDoc combines JavaDoc's syntax for block tags (extended to support Kotlin's specific constructs) and Markdown for inline markup.

Generating the Documentation

Kotlin's documentation generation tool is called Dokka. See the Dokka README for usage instructions.

Dokka has plugins for Gradle, Maven and Ant, so you can integrate documentation generation into your build process.

KDoc Syntax

Just like with JavaDoc, KDoc comments start with /** and end with */. Every line of the comment may begin with an asterisk, which is not considered part of the contents of the comment.

By convention, the first paragraph of the documentation text (the block of text until the first blank line) is the summary description of the element, and the following text is the detailed description.

Every block tag begins on a new line and starts with the @ character.

Here's an example of a class documented using KDoc:

/**
 * A group of *members*.
 *
 * This class has no useful logic; it's just a documentation example.
 *
 * @param T the type of a member in this group.
 * @property name the name of this group.
 * @constructor Creates an empty group.
 */
class Group<T>(val name: String) {
    /**
     * Adds a [member] to this group.
     * @return the new size of the group.
     */
    fun add(member: T): Int { ... }
}

Block Tags

KDoc currently supports the following block tags:

@param <name>

Documents a value parameter of a function or a type parameter of a class, property or function. To better separate the parameter name from the description, if you prefer, you can enclose the name of the parameter in brackets. The following two syntaxes are therefore equivalent:

@param name description.
@param[name] description.

@return

Documents the return value of a function.

@constructor

Documents the primary constructor of a class.

@receiver

Documents the receiver of an extension function.

@property <name>

Documents the property of a class which has the specified name. This tag can be used for documenting properties declared in the primary constructor, where putting a doc comment directly before the property definition would be awkward.

@throws <class>, @exception <class>

Documents an exception which can be thrown by a method. Since Kotlin does not have checked exceptions, there is also no expectation that all possible exceptions are documented, but you can still use this tag when it provides useful information for users of the class.

@sample <identifier>

Embeds the body of the function with the specified qualified name into the documentation for the current element, in order to show an example of how the element could be used.

@see <identifier>

Adds a link to the specified class or method to the See Also block of the documentation.

@author

Specifies the author of the element being documented.

@since

Specifies the version of the software in which the element being documented was introduced.

@suppress

Excludes the element from the generated documentation. Can be used for elements which are not part of the official API of a module but still have to be visible externally.

KDoc does not support the @deprecated tag. Instead, please use the @Deprecated annotation.

Inline Markup

For inline markup, KDoc uses the regular Markdown syntax, extended to support a shorthand syntax for linking to other elements in the code.

Linking to Elements

To link to another element (class, method, property or parameter), simply put its name in square brackets:

Use the method [foo] for this purpose.

If you want to specify a custom label for the link, use the Markdown reference-style syntax:

Use [this method][foo] for this purpose.

You can also use qualified names in the links. Note that, unlike JavaDoc, qualified names always use the dot character to separate the components, even before a method name:

Use [kotlin.reflect.KClass.properties] to enumerate the properties of the class.

Names in links are resolved using the same rules as if the name was used inside the element being documented. In particular, this means that if you have imported a name into the current file, you don't need to fully qualify it when you use it in a KDoc comment.

Note that KDoc does not have any syntax for resolving overloaded members in links. Since the Kotlin documentation generation tool puts the documentation for all overloads of a function on the same page, identifying a specific overloaded function is not required for the link to work.

Module and Package Documentation

Documentation for a module as a whole, as well as packages in that module, is provided as a separate Markdown file, and the paths to that file is passed to Dokka using the -include command line parameter or the corresponding parameters in Ant, Maven and Gradle plugins.

Inside the file, the documentation for the module as a whole and for individual packages is introduced by the corresponding first-level headings. The text of the heading must be "Module <module name>" for the module, and "Package <package qualified name>" for a package.

Here's an example content of the file:

# Module kotlin-demo

The module shows the Dokka syntax usage.

# Package org.jetbrains.kotlin.demo

Contains assorted useful stuff.

## Level 2 heading

Text after this heading is also part of documentation for `org.jetbrains.kotlin.demo`

# Package org.jetbrains.kotlin.demo2

Useful stuff in another package.